8th & 9th May, 2010



















Photo by Edward April 20, 2010. ©Copyright 2010 by Stanyan Music group. All Rights Reserved

A Thought for Today

If love goes out the door don’t be too proud to follow it.



Thanks to all of you who sent birthday greetings and E-mails with well wishes. All three of us (Edward, Buddy the cat and myself) celebrated an uneventful but happy & healthy birthday. Wish I could respond to each and every one of your thoughtful letters but that’s a task I’m not quite up to. Just wanted each of you to know that I read and appreciated each and every one and Edward wants to thank you too for remembering his birthday.

The only thing I didn’t open were the E-cards. They seem to have a propensity for crashing my CPU. But again thanks for the good wishes and kind thoughts.



Hello Mr. McKuen, this is Eli. I wrote to you a while ago and you responded and then for Christmas my mother took me to Buddy Greco's bar to watch you perform. It was truly magical and way better than a BB gun. But I digress.

My question this time is do you ever write really bad poetry? I'm talking about the times where you'll be sitting down and see something and scramble for a napkin and pen and write it down, put it in your pocket, and you go home with a fresh mind and read it, and you realize, it's crap? Being a writer myself this always happens to me. And then, if it's not crap, I'll lose it. I can't count how many poems are in between friend's sofa cushions or on a plane or at restaurants. Does this ever happen to you? I'm asking because it's always nice to know you're not alone out there. Also, one last question. Think of you're first book ever. Maybe not even your first published book, it could be a chapbook or whatnot. Did it tank in sales? I'm finding my lack of sales for my first chapbook discouraging (I think I've sold maybe 14). It's so far cost me more time, energy, and especially money to make them than is being produced. I wish I could send you a copy, but I understand and fully respect your policy on not accepting peoples' OPs (original pieces). Take care now. Con amor y mas, Eli

Dear Eli, My apologies for taking so long to answer your last letter. Things are a bit crazy (as usual) around here and trying to find time to get through the mail is becoming more and more difficult. I’m hoping now that I have my iPad – a birthday present I bought myself – I’ll use the learning curve to help with my e-mails. So far my favorite application is the excellent note pad.

Yes Eli, every poet writes his or her share of what can only with charity be termed dreck. The trick is to spot it, be ruthless about it and trash it right away. Occasionally what you know and feel is a good line or two will emerge out of the junk. I try to hold on to those and squirrel them away. Often weeks, sometimes years later you’ll stumble on that saved item and it will springboard a new idea or if you are lucky maybe even a whole poem.

I live in dreaded fear of being caught without a writing instrument and a scrap of paper. I nearly always carry a notebook and pen with me wherever I go. . . just in case. Sure as hell if you are without paper an idea will come.

Don’t ever be afraid of writing something worthless because in order to get to what you finally feel is ‘the good stuff’ it’s necessary to get a lot of junk out of your system. As to sales, my first book “and autumn came” was published just as I was going into the army, needless to say I couldn’t do much in the way of promoting it. It was a near total bust as far as moving copies goes and only caught on after I became successful years later.

As you know, I had a real advantage by making albums and performing while I was writing books. I advertised my books on the back of my LP’s and vice versa. That’s why I have trouble advising young poets how to market their work. My circumstances were unique.

Don’t be discouraged. This may sound trite but I promise you that you will be successful, but only if your drive matches your talent and you want to be a writer more than anything else in the world. That’s just the way it works. The sacrifices you have to make to reach the top in any field are more than most people are willing to put up with – particularly where personal relationships are concerned.

KEEP WRITING. All My Best to you, as ever, Rod


Mr. McKuen, A quick explanation on why I am contacting you: I created and run a site devoted to rejected scores, where a composer does a score for a film/TV episode/video game, but in the end it is replaced.

I read an old news blurb stating you were doing the score to "Myra Breckinridge", but IMDB.com shows a different composer. Did you in fact record a score, which was not used? Thank you, Justin Boggan

Dear Justin, I'm afraid that one was a case of 20th Century Fox press agents working overtime.

Here's the scoop: I had done the score for "Joanna" directed by Michael Sarne followed by "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" produced by Robert Fryer. Since Sarne & Fryer were both to be involved in Breckenridge there had been buzz around the studio that I would write the music for "Myra."

In fact I went to far as to fly to Rome with Fryer to meet with Gore Vidal, author of the book and later had a couple of meetings with Mae West about the songs I would write for her to sing in it. These meetings happened about 18 months before there was a completed script.

When I read the first draft of the "Breckenridge" script I decided to pass. In the end John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas fame did the music for it & in what could only be a Hollywood story ended up meeting and marrying Genevieve Wait the star of "Joanna."

Here’s a bit of additional trivia, MB was the first film where Tom Seleck made a screen appearance. Cheers. Rod


I have been searching for lyrics to the song that contains the words "If we must go as tattered gypsies seeking out the friendly people, let it be so. For more than one man has come up in someone's shadow and looking back before he closed the door. He found sunlight streaming through the window. Sometimes if he's lucky he's found more." I would so appreciate knowing all those words. Where might I find them? Sincerely, Susan

Dear Susan, The lyrics you quote are from the song “In Someone's Shadow.” The title comes from the 1969 book of the same name and I sang it for the first time in the 1970 LP New Ballads. New Ballads is being mastered for CD release this fall as part of a boxed series entitled The Warner Bros. Years: Vol. I. Here are the lyrics:

In Someone's Shadow

There is substance of a kind
In Someone's Shadow
the inside of the outside of a dream
and when you lie down in the darkness
in the shadow of a lover
who cares if things are not
what they may seem.

There is safety that is sure
In Someone's Shadow
you belong to part of something
you can feel
in the silence of the night time
in the shadow of a lover
what matters if reality's unreal.

If we must go... as tattered gypsies
seeking out the friendly people let it be so
for more that one man has come up
from someone's shadow.
And looking back before
he closed the door
he's found sunlight streaming
through the window
sometimes when he's lucky
he finds more.

-from “New Ballads,” 1969

All the best and thanks for the query. Rod


In the early 70's you came to San Antonio and spoke to a child abuse prevention group. My father, Gerald T. Sueltenfuss, was president and you came for a small gathering at our house. I met you. You signed a book and I told you how I did a Literature project at Central Catholic High School on your works. I have been curious if you remember. I am now 57, married with two grown children and one daughter who has passed away. Thank you for being a kind influence through your poetry. Paul E. Sueltenfuss, Ed.D. Special Education Teacher

Dear Paul, I do remember and I recall that you promised to send me a copy of your essay. And? It's been a while since I've been in San Antonio but I have good memories of several trips there.

Congratulations on what sounds like a good life, despite the tragedy of your daughter. Our children aren't supposed to go before we do. Being in The Special Education field must be a challenge

Thanks for the kind words and the mental trip back to the '70's. All my best to you and your family, Paul. Warmly, Rod


Rod, I read many of your poems while in college during the late 60's and early 70's. I had copied a passage out of one of your books that really hit home with me but cannot remember the book it came from. I had the copy until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina claimed all of my belongings as her own. During tough times I would read this passage and draw strength from it.

The passage started with - Born in my heart. Born in the pain of ending one life and beginning another. I forget most of the rest except for - This is for dreamers for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.

I would greatly appreciate your help in locating the book this passage is in. I have purchased several of your books on Amazon, but have not found the right one yet. Thank You so much. Helen Senn

Dear Helen, I’ve racked my brain and other more reliable files and as I suspected none of the lines you attribute to me are mine. Didn’t Jim Kavenough have a book entitled “Some Men Are Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves?” You might try searching his works. Sorry I can’t be of further help. All the best, Rod

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notable birthdays

Saturday 8 May

John Anderson, Jr. o John Attenborough o Agustus Bakos o Lex Barker o Peter Benchley o Sybil Brand o Fernandel o Romain Gary o Melissa Gilbert o Gary Glitter o Darren Hayes o Carolyn Horchow o Enrique Iglesias o Salome Jens o Sonny Liston o Rick Nelson o Thomas Pynchon o Don Rickles o Roberto Rossellini o Bishop Fulton Sheen o Theodore Sorenson o Toni Tennille o Harry S. Truman o Sloan Wilson

Sunday 9 May

Sir James Barrie o Richard Barthelmess o James L. Brooks o Candice Bergen o John Brown o Howard Carter o Hilary Duff o Albert Finney o Orville Freeman o Pancho Gonzales o Tony Gwynn o Glenda Jackson o Billy Joel o Henry J. Kaiser o Fuzzy Knight o Kathryn Kuhlman o Tommy Roe o Hank Snow o Mike Wallace o Barbara Woodhouse o Steve Yzerman

Rod's random thoughts A laurel crown dries up; the vine from which it came lives on.

Love carried to its highest point is simple anticipation. So too is fear.

Age is only irrelevant to the young.


I am content to count
the cobblestones and bricks
        of backyard walks.

Like the inchworm in the half step,
I re-examine soil surveyed
       and leaf already tagged.
The arteries’ arithmetic
                  will not be stopped.

I wait. I await. The heart
holds on. I am being true
to life as I have known it.

And life is never absolute,
it runs on chicken feet
        between God’s wink
and the Devil’s asshole.
Somewhere in that distance
love is found or finds us.
What matters is the quality
of solitude we keep
while waiting to be found
        or found out,
thought up or thought about.
Solitude is never sure.

It has no seamark
without excursion into piety
        and disbelief.
As one end confirms the other
so too the move from silence
to the subway grunt.

The rattle underneath the street
proves the worth of silence.

-from “Rusting in the Rain, 2004


I’ve had some thought provoking feedback on some recent blogs and if things go as planned I’ll be sharing some of it with you on Monday, hope you’ll join me then.

Sleep warm and play nice this weekend.

RM Holmby Hills CA / 4:50PM PDST 2010

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